Port Stephens

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A while since my last blog, you might recall we left Swansea/Lake Macquarie before Easter and had a beautiful moonlit night-sail to Port Stephens. Arriving as dawn broke on Good Friday, we tacked around Tomaree Head and into Port Stephens snaking our way along the southern coast on the off-chance we may score a courtesy mooring. Not expecting miracles we knew the Easter period would take care of any spare moorings. Arriving at Salamander Bay, we dropped the anchor, and had a few hours sleep to make up for what we’d missed the previous night. I read a few pages on my Kindle before pulling down my eye-mask, plugging in my ears and sliding into a warm, deep sleep. Awake after a much needed four hour sleep the day was warm and still and it wasn’t long before we were both happily jumping off Blue Heeler into the refreshing water.

Friends of ours, Rick and Estelle, live in Anna Bay and we were delighted to catch up with them and their sparkling daughter Cheyenne, who we hadn’t seen since she was a baby. Easter Saturday we took them for a calm sail across the water returning to Salamander Bay to watch the orange sun drop below the horizon.

Both keen to spend some time here, we left Salamander Bay and opted to stay at the Soldier’s Point Marina for one week so we could get the bikes off and have a good look around the area. Once Blue Heeler was docked we were taken on a grand tour of the marina. Marble bathrooms – haven’t seen posh dunnies like those before at a marina! They have a computer room with printer and TV plus laundry facilities. A courtesy car was available to us as well as complimentary push-bikes, but we elected to use our own bikes. Wayne heaved each bike box out of the fore-cabin into the saloon where pedals, handle-bars and other bike bits were removed and bikes assembled on the jetty. Still being Easter, one of the marina staff came by with a complimentary cocktail – tally ho!

The following morning sitting in the cockpit enjoying the morning sun, we heard the pop and burst of air from my bike’s back tyre. I changed the tube with a new and repaired the burst tube.  Just before we were ready to go for a ride, I realised my front tyre was also flat and had to fix that too. Doh!

With two new tubes we were pedalling along Soldier’s Point Road, Port Stephens Road, Nelsons Bay Road and into Anna Bay where our friends live. After a yummy sandwich lunch, Rick took us out along the beach along the huge Stockton sand dunes and to the wreck of the Sygna on Stockton Beach. It was wrecked back in May 1974 on it’s maiden voyage. Apparently that particular storm caused 17m seas in Newcastle with 90 knot winds and was classified as a cyclone.

Another day once the morning showers had subsided we went for a long bike-ride along Soldier’s Point Road into Salamander Bay, Corlette and across to Nelson Bay, some 10-15 kms away. Luckily not too many hills for our out-of-condition bodies and with the sun beaming down on us we had a pleasant ride. We stopped off to check out the very posh and pricey Anchorage Marina before continuing on through Nelson Bay and onto Shoal Bay where we stopped for lunch. Months of no riding was starting to tell – I’m sure my bike-seat used to be softer – but we continued onto Fingal Bay before easing our tender bums back onto the seats and pedalled with the wind behind us all the way back to the marina.

The next day we spent walking around Newcastle – the second largest city in New South Wales. I’d never visited before and although it is renown for it’s industry it was nonetheless scenic and the walk along the beach was worth it for the views. Taking the ferry across to the wharf, we walked until the long pier where huge frothy swells were breaking over. As the rain passed over we had a quick coffee before continuing up the hill to Fort Scratchley then along Shortland Esplanade stopping for lunch until another rain-cloud passed by. After lunch we continued on until we reached the historic Bogey Hole; a swimming hole apparently excavated by convicts some 200 years ago. At the top of the Srzelecki Lookout were a few hang-gliders taking advantage of the 20 knot winds. Down the hill then along Darby Street until we reached Hunter Mall before jumping back on the ferry to the Stockton side of the Hunter River.

A day out in the picturesque Hunter Valley, we tasted a variety of white and red wines at the cellar door of Tempus Two before walking up to the Smelly Cheese Shop to taste the samples and sniff the glorious cheesy odours. We had lunch at the Hunter Valley Gardens where the Easter crowds had died off allowing us to enjoy a more relaxing pace.  The picturesque Pepper Tree Winery was a short drive away and we sampled some lovely Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignons and other whites, ultimately buying a couple of bottles. One final stop was the Iron Gate Winery but we arrived a little too late as they were almost closing for the day. Chatting all the way back to Salamander Bay made the journey seem faster and it wasn’t long before we’d arrived at the Salamander Bowling Club to end the pleasant day with a couple of drinks before returning to the marina.

Wayne had a blocked ear since he went swimming on Good Friday and it was still blocked one week later. After syringing, flushing, using the hair-dryer, jumping up and down on one foot, nothing cleared it. A visit to the doctors was warranted and Wayne left with a still-blocked ear but with the advice to use Ear Clear. Good news – it worked!

Over the weekend we took a spin in Rick’s speedboat to Tea Gardens and the following day walked to the Tomaree Headland Lookout with stunning views of Fingal Bay and beyond, Point Stephens lighthouse and north towards Broughton Island. Last night under clear skies we had a parting dinner aboard Blue Heeler and said farewell to our friends.

What a great week! We’ve seen so much and really appreciated the hospitality of Rick, Estelle and Cheyenne during our stay. Port Stephens has everything for the outdoorsy types – water skiing, kayaking, beaches, bush walking, swimming (watch the sharks though!).

Today as Wayne packed the pushbikes back in the fore-cabin I busied myself with the final load of washing and sorted out our provisions. We left the marina by late morning and motored the short distance across to Fame Cove on the north shore where we grabbed a courtesy mooring for the evening. With the genny running the sewing machine, I spent an hour or so running new stitches over the dodger as some of the stitches were showing signs of wear. Good as new!

The weather is steady all week but the swell will decrease from Wednesday so we’re likely to leave then for a direct trip to Coffs Harbour; some 170 miles away. Until next time…

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Sailing the world aboard Blue Heeler
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